Pushover? Need to set boundaries? If you’re prone to stress and overwhelm, you simply have to ask yourself: “Are you capable of saying no?”

One of the leading causes of having too much to do and so little time for self-care is the inability to assert one’s boundaries. We’re human beings; we have limited energy and coping resources! Much as we’d like to please everyone — and adjust to everybody else’s needs — we can’t without asking for burn-out. Unless we communicate our boundaries, we’ll be letting everyone else — from our boss to our loved ones to the telephone marketer — walk all over us.

Are you a push-over? Then consider the following guidelines on how to assert your boundaries:

First off, ask: do you know your boundaries?

This may seem like a silly question, but you’d be surprised how very few people are aware of their limitations — and their right to say no to things they’re not obliged to do. Perhaps you grew up in a family where not pleasing others is tantamount to murder. Or perhaps you’re intimidated by louder personalities; you dislike confrontation so you’d rather say “yes” even when you mean “no.” Or you may be suffering from depression and not know it.

Regardless of the cause of your “doormat” disposition, it’s time for a reality check. Here’s a tip: why don’t you make a list of all the things that you do on a typical day. Once you’re done, go through each activity. Weigh each one. Are these things really required of me? Is the pay-off for these tasks mine or someone else’s? If the answer to the first question is mostly no, and to the second mostly other people’s, then you need to start building some walls to protect yourself.

Know that there’s nothing wrong in asking, and no need to feel guilty about others accommodating you.

The whole point of communication is for others to weigh your request so that they can respond based on their own free will. So what are you most scared of? If they say “yes” to your need for space and accommodation, then they did so freely. You did not put a gun to their head. If they say “no,” then at least you know you asked, and you’re now in a better position to consider other alternatives. If they get upset and start railing at you, then that’s their problem — you were merely looking out for yourself.

Don’t worry too much about how the other person will react. For as long as you assert yourself in a respectful fashion, e.g. owning your request instead of blaming someone else for your stress, then you’ll have nothing to fear from the etiquette police.

Tell the other person what’s in it for him or her.

If you’re encountering resistance whenever you assert your boundaries, then it’s time to think like a sales person. Instead of making it about you, make it about the other person, or the greater goal. For example, if your boss wants you to take home work for the weekend, but you promised your children quality bonding time, then simply explain how taking work home will just make you a sloppy, disgruntled employee — which is ultimately bad for the company! Sometimes other people need insight into how stepping over others is counter-productive — and therefore not a good habit to nurture!

Lastly, be respectful of other people’s boundaries too!

Did your son or daughter ask for privacy while sorting through the pain of a break-up? The stop prying; obviously they need to be alone for a while. Would your spouse rather that you don’t organize his or her closet (chaos makes sense for some people!), then let the clothes be. Consideration is one of those things that come around. If you can show respect for other people’s boundaries, then expect others to return the favor when it’s your turn to assert yours.